YSU ConneX builds communications strategies for local businesses


Sarah Chill, left, and Maggi Gratz-Reynolds, students in the new master’s program in Interdisciplinary Communication, watch Adam Earnheardt, chair of Communications, on a monitor in the new ConneX corporate communications consulting center in Maag Library.

Marketing campaigns that cost almost nothing for local organizations, faculty research and service opportunities, hands-on student experience, and a source of revenue for the Department of Communication are some of the perks of ConneX, the new Corporate Communication Consulting Center scheduled to open later this semester.

Adam Earnheardt, Communications chair, said dwindling budgets in many companies have led to a rise in demand for less expensive communication approaches. That’s where ConneX comes in. Based in the Maag Library basement, the center will be used by businesses and non-profits to build their communication strategies.

“There are a wide variety of areas that we can consult and train on, everything from conflict management and negotiation to team building skills, group presentation skills, to interviewing techniques,” Earnheardt said. “ConneX is like a consulting business; there will be access to the best communication consultants in the area.”

The department has more than a dozen faculty members with varying areas of expertise who will be able to develop their research agendas and either present their findings or publish in national journals, while graduate students gain portfolio materials and hands-on experience.

“Imagine a graduate student who is learning about marketing, technical communication, professional communication, and here they have a chance to apply that in a real world setting as part of this center,” Earnheardt said.

“Effective communication skills are critical in every workplace, regardless of the size and type of the organization, and can have a direct impact on the bottom line,” said Bryan DePoy, dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communication.

ConneX’s equipment, including five iMac computers, five MacBook Pros, 10 iPads and a group video-conferencing hub, were purchased by a combination of Ohio Hub of Innovation and Opportunity funding and a match by the college and department. “We raised close to $40,000, matching dollar for dollar,” Earnheardt said.

Students will be able to use the lab, and businesses will be able to make appointments. A graduate assistant will oversee the room, and fees will be charged on a sliding scale based on the needs of the business. “This is an extraordinary example of how we can directly support the regional economy,” said DePoy.

The room is divided into a boardroom-style video-conferencing area, strategy stations and workstations. YSU is working closely with the Metro College to launch ConneX in late September. An open house is set for noon to 3 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30. Initially, services will focus on public speaking and presentational skills, public and media relations, social media campaign development and business communication analysis.

Story by Harry Evans